The Lost Years of Jesus

Did Jesus have a difficult childhood? Was his youth spent in Egypt or England, India or Japan? The four canonical gospels are quiet on his early life, leading some to speculate.

Madonna of the Meadow (Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist), by Raphael, 1506. Art Library/Alamy Stock Photo.

Amid the excitement of Christmas, it is sobering to think how little we know about Jesus’ early life. Only two of the four canonical gospels – Luke and Matthew – say anything at all about it; and even they leave much unsaid or unclear. Apart from mentioning that Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus and Herod the Great, they give no clue as to the exact date of his birth; they cannot agree whether he was visited by shepherds or Magi; and only one of them mentions the flight into Egypt. Most strikingly, nothing at all is said about Jesus’ youth. Apart from a brief story in Luke about the 12-year-old Jesus being found deep in discussion with the elders in the Temple in Jerusalem, we hear nothing more about him until the beginning of his ministry, ‘when he was about thirty years of age’. His childhood, his adolescence, even his early manhood are passed over in silence.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.